The Houston Rockets landed in Miami with the intention of taking off again. Following their historic shooting performance against the Warriors the previous night, Houston shot 58.8% on the night and kept pace with the East-best Heat, racking up 30 points in the first and 108 overall. James Harden went berserk late to close a gap, but the Heat just had too much firepower. Harden may have dropped a superstar line, but Miami got that from both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, proving too much for Houston to handle.
The Heat were missing star forward Chris Bosh due to flue-like symptoms, but that didn’t stop them from rolling on both sides of the ball. Houston can claim the absence of bench sharpshooter Carlos Delfino, and the toil of a set of back to back games, but the difference was that the Heat simply executed when it mattered. When LeBron was quiet early, Dwyane Wade attacked. When Wade cooled off in the second and third, LeBron James stepped up and sank daggers into the Rockets’ chest. James Harden did all he could on offense, but the twin lines for Miami’s twin stars (32 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists for James, 31 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals for Wade) was eventually insurmountable.
James Harden also started relatively slow, but by the end of the third, he was taking over the game on Houston’s end. After early runs in both the third and fourth quarters from Miami, Harden took off, and ended up with close to a triple double: 36 points on 10-16 shooting, 4-7 threes, 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals (and 4 turnovers). Harden continues to mature, and with the exception of a pesky turnover problem (which he shares with the team), has clearly earned his All-Star berth. He scored 11 of the Rockets’ last 13 points, including three free throws to cut the lead to 3, and then a huge 3 pointer to cut it to 3 again. Despite trailing by as much as 16 in the third, Houston nearly stole the game, and Harden was the main reason why.
Asik brought home another 15 point, 14 rebound line. He’s getting so regular with his double doubles that it’s more notable when he fails to notch one, and that’s great for Houston. Asik still looks awkward at best when posting up or trying to use “finesse” around the cup, but his shot percentages are great (7-11 tonight), and he’s happy to subsist mostly on dunks and putbacks. Asik’s following the Tyson Chandler path to success, and the Rockets are happy to watch him do it.
Patrick Patterson still can’t rebound (3 total in 34 minutes), but he sure does everything else. He had great shot selection, and his all-around range served him well: 7-12 shooting for 15 points. Patterson also hustled down loose balls, hustled to his spots, and looked capable on defense yet again. It’s hard to believe that his starting spot seemed in jeopardy a few short weeks ago. He may not grab enough boards, but his skill set on both sides of the ball is a huge asset for Houston, and he even looks a little better when posting up.
Chandler Parsons sat at the end of the game, despite having a very solid shooting night: 13 points on 6-9 shooting. He picked up 5 fouls trying to guard two of the most unguardable players in the game in James and Wade, and this gave James Anderson a chance to play important minutes. While Parsons’ defense is down a bit, his man defense still looks solid, and he’ll bounce back from what is a mediocre night for him.
Jeremy Lin came out aggressive and had a few impressive layups, but missed the majority of his shots as teh night progressed (3-10). He still managed more points than attempts (13), but 3 assists and 2 turnovers is a poor evening for him. Chalmers played hard on both ends of the ball, and the Heat once again clamped down on Lin after he played well in February. Given how his recent momentum, hopefully he’ll be able to get his confidence back against less disruptive defenses.
The Rockets’ bench played poorly across the board, with Toney Douglas having the best outing: 3-7 shooting and 7 points. Douglas hit a three, stole the ball and then layed it up on consecutive possessions… and then only scored two more. James Anderson played extensive minutes (28:20) with Delfino and Parsons out of his way. Unfortunately, he only made two baskets in seven tries for six points. Anderson has shot well when open, but he forces the issue and finds himself lost at the cup too often. there’s no reason to believe he can’t be worked into a serviceable backup, but right now Houston will be glad when Carlos Delfino’s elbow heals up (Right elbow strain).
Despite being another tally in the L column, the Rockets showed a lot of good signs. Despite 16 turnovers, and despite trailing by 16 at one point, the Rockets closed it up to 3 (twice) against one of the most brutal, aggressive defenses in the league. The reigning champion Heat had to step up and work to put away the pesky Rockets, which is a fine pedigree for such a young team. Two weeks ago, the Rockets looks lost and sloppy on the second nights of back to backs. Tonight, they looked like a solid team. Two superstars may beat one, but Houston might not be stuck at one forever.